California Occupational Guides

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Detailed Guide for

Child, Family, and School Social Workers in California

May also be called: Adoption Specialists; Case Managers; Caseworkers; Child Protective Services Specialists; Child Welfare Workers; Family Preservation Caseworkers; Family Service Caseworkers; Foster Care Social Workers; Geriatric Social Workers; Licensed Clinical Social Workers; and Occupational Social Workers

What Would I Do?

Child, Family, and School Social Workers provide services and assistance to improve the social and psychological functioning of children and their families. Their job is to maximize the well-being of families and the academic functioning of children. They may assist single parents, arrange adoptions, or help find foster homes for neglected, abandoned, or abused children. This may involve working with the juvenile court system and community-based agencies.

Some specialize in services for senior citizens. These Social Workers may run support groups for adult children of aging parents; advise elderly people or family members about housing, transportation, long-term care, and other services; and coordinate and monitor these services. Through employee assistance programs, Social Workers may help people cope with job-related pressures or with personal problems that affect the quality of their work.

In schools, Social Workers often serve as the link between students’ families and the school, working with parents, guardians, teachers, and other school officials to ensure students reach their academic and personal potential. In addition, they address problems such as misbehavior, truancy, drug and alcohol abuse, and teenage pregnancy and advise teachers on how to cope with difficult students. Increasingly, School Social Workers teach workshops to entire classes.

Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) may provide mental health assessments for children and families, as well as individual and group treatment. This can occur in a public or private clinic, hospital, or private practice setting.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Interview clients individually, in families, or in groups, assessing their situations, capabilities, and problems, to determine what services are required to meet their needs.Problem Sensitivity
Counsel individuals, groups, families, or communities regarding issues including mental health, poverty, unemployment, substance abuse, physical abuse, rehabilitation, social adjustment, child care, or medical care.Therapy and Counseling
Maintain case history records and prepare reports.Writing
Counsel students whose behavior, school progress, or mental or physical impairment indicate a need for assistance, diagnosing students' problems and arranging for needed services.Social Perceptiveness
Consult with parents, teachers, and other school personnel to determine causes of problems such as truancy and misbehavior, and to implement solutions.Psychology
Counsel parents with child rearing problems, interviewing the child and family to determine whether further action is required.Oral Comprehension
Develop and review service plans in consultation with clients, and perform follow-ups assessing the quantity and quality of services provided.Monitoring
Collect supplementary information needed to assist client, such as employment records, medical records, or school reports.Service Orientation
Address legal issues, such as child abuse and discipline, assisting with hearings and providing testimony to inform custody arrangements.Oral Expression
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Most Social Workers work 40 hours per week; however, some occasionally work evenings and weekends to meet with clients, attend community meetings, and handle emergencies. Some, particularly in nonprofit agencies, work part time. Social Workers usually spend most of their time in an office, residential facility, or school, but may also visit clients, meet with service providers, or attend meetings. School Social Workers typically serve more than one school on a rotating basis.

Social work can be both rewarding and quite challenging. Social Workers must be able to interact with individuals from a variety of backgrounds and in situations of all kinds. Some aspects of the job can be emotionally difficult. Understaffing and large caseloads add to the pressure in some agencies.

Some Social Workers belong to unions. Those working for government agencies may join the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees or the Service Employees International Union. The principal professional organization is the National Association of Social Workers.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Child, Family, and School Social Worker will appeal to those who enjoy interacting with people. This occupation satisfies those with social interests. Social occupations involve helping or providing service to others. Results-oriented individuals who are independent workers and like to make their own decisions should enjoy this type of job.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?


The median wage in 2021 for Child, Family, and School Social Workers in California was $53,504 annually, or $25.72 hourly. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Change to Hourly Wages
Annual Wages for 2021Low
(25th percentile)
(50th percentile)
(75th percentile)
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2021 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas


Most employers offer benefit packages that include health, dental, vision, and life insurance, holidays, vacation, sick leave, and retirement plans.

What is the Job Outlook?

Social Workers should enjoy good job prospects. More job opportunities are expected in rural areas, where it is often difficult to find and retain qualified Social Workers. Employment in State and local government agencies is expected to grow somewhat in response to growing needs for public welfare, family services, and child protective services, but many of these services will be contracted out to private agencies.

Geriatric Social Workers will see rapid job growth due to the aging population’s increased demand for social services. Family Social Workers are needed to assist in finding the best care for the aging population and to provide support to their families. Rising student enrollments and the mainstreaming of special needs children into the general school population will increase demand for School Social Workers; however, growth will be tempered by school funding levels and the limited number of openings in some areas.

Projections of Employment

In California, the number of Child, Family, and School Social Workers is expected to grow slower than average growth rate for all occupations. Jobs for Child, Family, and School Social Workers are expected to increase by 5.9 percent, or 2,000 jobs between 2018 and 2028.

Estimated Employment and Projected Growth
Child, Family, and School Social Workers
Geographic Area
(Estimated Year-Projected Year)
Total Job
Source: EDD/LMID Projections of Employment by Occupation
View Projected Growth for All Areas

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

A master’s degree in social work (MSW) or psychology is required for most positions; however a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW), psychology, sociology, or a related-field may qualify for some entry-level jobs. In addition to education, some agencies require practical experience working with a specific social problem, such as child abuse. Candidates with specialized training and experience or who are bilingual have better prospects.

Social Workers should be emotionally mature, objective, and sensitive to people and their problems. They work with a diverse population and should demonstrate cultural sensitivity when serving their clients. They must be able to handle responsibility, work independently, and maintain good working relationships with clients and coworkers.

Early Career Planning

High school students interested in this kind of work should take classes in psychology, biology, sociology, child development, economics, political science, and foreign language. Volunteer work providing service to others may also be useful.

Continuing Education

All LCSWs are required to complete 36 hours of continuing education within the preceding two years of their license renewal date. Social Workers employed in the public child welfare system are required to complete 40 hours of continuing education every two years.

Licensing and Certification

California has a registration program for Social Workers administered by the Board of Behavioral Sciences (BBS). A California LCSW is required by many agencies. Educational requirements include an MSW from an accredited school of social work. In addition, course work in child abuse assessment and reporting, human sexuality, substance abuse and dependency, spousal abuse assessment and reporting, and aging and long term care is required. There is also a supervised work experience requirement. The BBS requires a Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation criminal history background check and Live Scan fingerprint clearance on all applicants for licensure or registration. Recent graduates and workers from out-of-state are allowed four years to obtain the license.

Certification is voluntary; however, Social Workers with an MSW may be eligible for credentials through the National Association of Social Workers, based on their professional experience. Credentials such as the Academy of Certified Social Workers (ACSW), the Qualified Clinical Social Worker (QCSW), or the Diplomate in Clinical Social Work (DCSW) are particularly important for those in private practice as some health insurance providers require these credentials to reimburse for services. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

  • Search by Field of Study to find what programs are available and what schools offer those programs. You may use keywords such as: Behavioral, Community, Counseling, Education, Family, Psychology, and Social Work.
  • Search by Training Provider to find schools by name, type of school, or location.

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

The largest industries employing Child, Family, and School Social Workers are as follows:

Industry TitlePercent of Total Employment for Occupation in California
Local Government38.6%
Individual and Family Services29.6%
Elementary and Secondary Schools8.8%
Other Residential Care Facilities3.3%
Child Day Care Services2.6%
Source: EDD/LMID Staffing Patterns

Finding a Job

Direct application to employers remains one of the most effective job search methods. Newspaper classified ads and Internet job listings also provide helpful local job leads. Those interested in civil service jobs should contact State, county, and city personnel offices or visit their Web sites. One may also apply at private agencies, colleges, placement bureaus, and professional associations or learn about job openings through ads in professional journals.  Online job opening systems include JobCentral at and CalJOBSSM at

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Child, Family, and School Social Workers.

  • Family Services
  • Government Offices
  • Residential Care Facilities
  • Schools
  • Social Service Organizations

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

With an advanced degree and the right experience, Social Workers can advance to program manager, assistant director, or executive director of a social service agency or department. They may also choose to go into teaching, research, consulting, or open a private practice.

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Child, Family, and School Social Workers with links to more information.

Clinical, Counseling, and School PsychologistsProfile
Educational, Guidance, School, and Vocational CounselorsProfile
Marriage and Family TherapistsProfile
Healthcare Social WorkersGuide
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social WorkersProfile
Mental Health CounselorsProfile
Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment SpecialistsProfile
Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder CounselorsProfile

Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SOC - Standard Occupational Classification21-1021
O*NET - Occupational Information Network
   Child, Family, and School Social Workers21-1021.00
   Interest Codes (RIASEC)SEA